Mark Mitera didn’t score a point last night. But his stick might’ve deserved one.
With the game tied and Miami on the power play, RedHawk defenseman Geoff Smith collected the puck near center ice and looked to head toward the goal.
But he tripped on Mark Mitera’s stick, which was still lying on the ice after getting caught in a defender’s jersey on an earlier shift.
With Smith on the ground and the puck drifting aimlessly, sophomore Andrew Cogliano took the puck and put it past goalie Charlie Effinger to give No. 5 Michigan its first lead of the night (2-1) on the way to a 6-3 victory.
“Yeah, I want an assist on that,” Mitera joked.
Lucky bounces like that allowed the Wolverines (1-0-0 CCHA, 3-0-0 overall) to beat No. 9 Miami in their CCHA opener at Yost Ice Arena last night in a game that was closer than the scoreboard showed.
“It wasn’t like we were outplaying them; that was a pretty evenly played, hard-fought game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “You’ve got to get some breaks. But if you work hard, you get some breaks.”
A primary beneficiary of those lucky bounces was junior Chad Kolarik, who scored a hat trick for the second straight game. All three of his goals came in the third period.
Kolarik netted what turned out to be the game-winning goal nine minutes into the third period. The forward took a loose puck in front of the blue line and sent it past Effinger to put Michigan ahead 4-2.
“He’s an opportunist,” Berenson said of Kolarik, who has notched seven goals this year. “He’s got confidence right now.”
The Abington, Pa., native also scored on a breakaway a few minutes later when he chose to take it in alone with Cogliano to his right. Kolarik added an empty-netter at 18:59 to ice the game.
“When we did come out (of our zone), we created some outnumbered rushes and opportunities,” Berenson said. “And we were able to capitalize on them.”
But Berenson said the team’s eagerness to break out into the offensive rush had some defensive repercussions.
“Everyone is anxious to get the puck and go, but are we as anxious if we lose the puck to come back and that cost us two goals in the game?” Berenson said.
Miami (0-1-0, 3-2-0) took the lead at 16:56 of the first period when Gary Staffes’s shot went over Michigan goalie Billy Sauer’s glove.
Wolverine forward David Rohlfs, who scored two points in the game, tied it up by putting a T.J. Hensick pass behind Effinger five minutes into the second period.
After Cogliano’s short-handed goal, Miami tied it up. But forward Kevin Porter broke the deadlock quickly, scoring a power-play goal just 27 seconds later to put Michigan up for good.
Michigan opened its season with wins against unranked Connecticut and Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, making last night’s game with a top-10 team and the defending conference champion is an accurate indicator for where it stands.
“It’s a good early test,” Rohlfs said. “The real test is to come out strong in our league. To get the strong competition off the bat, it teaches the new guys what to expect.”
The Wolverines will get another early-season test from the RedHawks tonight at 8:05 p.m. in Yost Ice Arena.